Not so long ago I could be found in the cinema two or three times a week but in recent years that has dropped to pretty much an annual visit. The general lack of consideration shown by other patrons with respect to making noise, messing around with phones or generally just making the whole experience a miserable one for people who Just Want To See The Film; the total apathy of the cinema staff and their unwillingness to address bad behaviour have been factors in my staying away – pepper that with a general lack of anything that suits my taste and the astronomical cost and you pretty much get the picture. (geddit?)
So it was with some trepidation that Herself and I ventured to the Vue Cinema in Stratford on Wednesday to see the movie of the moment: “12 Years A Slave”. I’d seen Chiwetel Ejiofor appearing as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman recently and we decided to give it a look. It was also our first visit to the Westfield shopping centre – not that it’s relevant but I thought I’d mention it. Our search for a box-office being in vain, I asked one of the people that were checking tickets purchased by other people (from where I knew not) how I could buy some and was treated to a condescending “You mean you don’t know?” as though this knowledge should have been in our DNA for decades. I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent but found being spoken to like a 5 year old by someone who was not much older than that himself did not do much for my perception of Vue Cinemas – clearly a training issue that needs addressing fairly rapidly. Oh, and making the process Obvious For The Casual Punter might be a good idea, too.
Having been directed to the counter that serves drinks/popcorn/other items that people take into screening rooms we queued up to purchase the means of entry – seemingly that is how it works now. Only it doesn’t. There were something like a dozen positions and at half past six on a Wednesday evening you’d expect plenty to be open and things moving quite quickly, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong. Half the positions were shut and we found ourselves stuck in a queue of 5. Having plenty of time we resigned ourselves to waiting. And waiting. And then waiting some more. I’ve seen snails move faster than the queue we were in!
Eventually we were one from the front and stuck behind a couple who didn’t know what they wanted to see. Once they’d made their choice, they then spent another age trying to decide where to sit. Then there was a further debate on the choice and number of comestibles they were going to take in and whether it would be better to buy them now or queue up again before their film which seemingly didn’t start for a while. I’m sure they also discussed the existence of Unicorns too – but by this time I was losing the will to live. Watching the clock running down – the hour we had spare is now little more than twenty-five minutes and we had wanted to go and get some tea and have a wander about before the film started – some hope! Buying the ticket was pretty painless in itself and we made our way to the designated screen, half way through the trailers and adverts – well done Vue, you ensured that I have no idea what was in the “coming soon” section of the programme.
My question to Vue Cinemas at this point is – why don’t you have a couple of lines open for people that just want to buy a ticket to see a film? You know, like it used to be, a method that worked for 80-odd years? I expect you will trot out the line about the ability to book on-line etc. – but that does little for those that walk up and just Want To See A Film – isn’t it people like me that you should be trying to attract back into your establishments, rather than going out of your way to drive us all to DVD, Pay-TV or services like Hulu and Netfilx?
Our tickets were for seats in row “D”, which you’d think would be well signposted, right? Wrong. If I’d not read on the screen when we selected our seats that “A” is the front, we could have gone to the back and started working 4 rows forward. The seat numbers were clear enough, but the row identification was not easily visible – we couldn’t spot it and there was nobody from the staff in the room to confirm this with. A lucky deduction, then.
Having sat down, we are treated to some sort of quiz that actively encourages people to use their mobile phones to take part (quite what advantage there was as all of the questions and answers were given on screen anyway eludes me) – but shouldn’t cinemas be doing something to discourage the use of phones in screening rooms? That has to be the single most annoying thing about modern cinema visits – people constantly playing with mobile devices.
As I said at the top of this article – I used to be a very regular cinema-goer and would be again – if only the cinema organisations would get the basics right – isn’t going to the movies meant to be an event to be talked about for the right reasons? Having parted with the better part of a pony for this “experience”, I can only assume that Vue cinemas could not care less about the serious movie fan and have little but contempt for their customers, both present and future.
Apart from some odd camera-work in places the film itself was pretty good, but I won’t dwell on it as I hate spoilers but I understand it is being tipped to sweep the board at the Oscars this year. That said, I don’t tend to watch films based on the number of nominations or awards they garner, more on the story and who is in it. Another good reason to make sure the customers get to see the “coming soon”, eh Vue?
Vue Cinemas have been contacted but only seem to want to discuss via social media or an 0871 number. They have been made aware of this piece via the former of their preferred methods and any comment(s) I receive will be published here – I’d like to think I’m not the only one who finds their idea of an “experience” a traumatic one!